Today is International Earth Day. While governments of one hundred and ninety-two countries are recognizing this important event with speeches and programs (and please not a flood of bright coloured balloons set aloft to kill more birds) little is being done to save our planet.
Traditionally, today, I pick up the garbage others have strewn over the living surface of our land like confetti rained down on a globe. Years of observation force me to conclude the people most dependent on the land are the ones that least respect it. I watch TV shows of subsistence dwellers in the north, who take 200 salmon out of a river a day while the runs are on, and drop their spent cartridges onto the land without retrieving them. I find empty bait containers of Styrofoam and plastic tossed away by fishermen (reaping the rewards of a tasty trout without respecting the waters that produced it). I see the farmers covering hay bails with mammoth sheets of plastic, spraying their crops with fertilizer and weed killers which sink into the water table and ripping up the brush around a small slough to squeeze another bushel of wheat from their land, while birds are left with nowhere to nest. Urban dwellers are little better. I locate the bag of trash someone throws into the ditch once a week on their way into the city. I pick up the bottles and cans and shiny pieces of foil that, heated by the sun, spark a flame in the dangerously dry grass and bush.
EARTHDAY.ORG is supported by many organizations trying to voice the despair of a dying planet. They sent representatives to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in 2021 to plead for more action and are behind many structured and positive programs to resuscitate our world before it chokes to death.
They’ve posted eight ideas to teach children about green living – which I think is a hoot, because our youngest generation knows more about it than the three generations who proceeded them and who still create the greatest amount of destruction. So, while you are “reading a book on nature” to your children or grandchildren as EDO recommends, please absorb the message.
“Go out and enjoy nature.” They suggest as an act of honoring Earth Day. They don’t say leave pieces of clothing, footwear, backpacks and your food wrappers behind when you head home. They don’t ask us to swing on tree limbs until they snap under our weight, or trod a path across the hills, where others have gone until a wavy line of bare dirt replaces the prairie wool and indicates your passing for the next millennia.
“Open your windows.” EDO notes homes contain 2.5 times more pollutants that the outdoors. They don’t point out that opening our window can bring in the toxic smell of manure from a feedlot, the acidic destruction of land from pig urine, the chemical vapours of a crop sprayer or the ripe smell of the lagoon filled with our waste; all caused by our greed for food and more food.
“Feed the birds”. I live in a provincial park. The administration has asked us not to put bird feeders out because the seeds dropping on the ground bring in other predators. So, while you’re kindly feeding a bird you’ve set up a bait stand for a fox or coyote.
“Take a bike ride.” Ha! More and more overfed people are buying electric bikes, which mean more lithium batteries, in other words more lithium extracted from rock or alkaline water in the earth and more batteries to dump into our landfills. According to authorities our planet has approximately 30 to 90 million tons of lithium in reserve, which means we will deplete the earth’s supply, possibly as early as 2040. Will we then sit upon a mountain of junked electric cars and bikes? And more frightening to me, has anyone projected the damage done to our water systems when we start harnessing more rivers and waterfalls to produce the mammoth amount of electricity needed to charge electric transportation?
One of EDO’s ideas I can get behind is “buy more locally”. Imagine the difference in how much fossil fuel is used to transport bananas from Brazil to the prairies, or pineapple from Hawaii to Toronto instead of eating the local berries and apples grown within a few kilometres of our homes? I wonder why governments aren’t investing in large greenhouses, employing hundreds of workers to grow the kind of food we insist we must have. We already make ethanol from plants, so we can heat the greenhouses with the waste from the plants we produce. But hey, maybe this idea is too simple, cost efficient and easy – let’s pay another three quarters of a million dollars to study the problem for five more years and come up with something far more complex and short-sighted.
Yes, the cynic in me is up and running and using the weak weapons of sarcasm and irony to attack. Nature is my battery charger, my spiritual inspirations and mental medicine. It infuriates me to see how carelessly others treat her. So today I post this blog in hopes my plea stops a paper cup from being tossed on the sidewalk, or a large piece of plastic being shredded on a barb wire fence. I stand by Mother Nature who is waving that plastic in the wind and rattling that cup down the street trying to catch our attention.